RSS

Monthly Archives: July 2013

Distractions, thank you notes and the one thing we actually need

I’m on vacation. If this is what my co-pastor preaches while I’m gone, I’m in no hurry to return.

A Lutheran Says What?

Let me paint a picture for all of you of my last week. As you know I was away to Portland to run a half marathon and then on to Seattle to see my parents. I flew in late Monday night and needed to be early on Tuesday as I needed to connect with Pastor Rob before he left on vacation. So I had my head full of many details of church and home and on top of that I had scheduled for Tuesday a meeting with someone from the synod office for 11:30 which seemed like a good idea weeks ago but on Tuesday- not so much. I was on my way out to this meeting and I was running late, feeling like I didn’t really have enough time for this meeting and mentally going through all the things that I had to do for the week-including writing this…

View original post 1,269 more words

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 21, 2013 in Sermon

 

Word and Sacrament: A Conversation Starter

8th Pentecost C
Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Children’s message…

When I was 12, a friend and I wanted some extra spending money. So we came up with a get-rich-quick plan. We got a couple of brooms and planned to go to area businesses and offer to sweep their parking lots. If they said “no,” we would let them know how badly their parking lot needed sweeping. If they still said “no,” we would then inform them that we could do just as good a job as anyone else, but we could do it cheaper. Foolproof!

So we set out with all confidence that we had this in the bag. We’d be swimming in money by the end of the day. We had thought of everything. The first business we came to was a fast food restaurant. We asked for the manager and confidently laid out our sales pitch. Surprisingly, he said “no,” so we went on with stage 2 of our foolproof plan, pointing out how debris-ridden his parking lot was and how bad that was for business. He still said “no,” so we played out ace-in-the-hole, how cost-effective we were.

We had all the information we needed, and were merely seeking an answer. We just needed the business owners to give it.

That’s how the lawyer in this text is approaching Jesus. He has all the information he really needs; he just wants an answer to his one question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In the same way, that’s also how many people understand the purpose of the Bible. OK, God, we know most of the stuff; we just need an answer, we’ll open the Bible and get it from you.

All of us–my friend and me with our brooms, the lawyer with eternal life, and those who want God’s answers from the Bible–don’t quite get what we want.

So after my friend and I finished our line about being the most cost-effective parking lot cleaning service in town, the business owner sat us down and began to patiently talk with us about child labor laws, liability insurance, and federal and state taxes. We just wanted an answer, but what we got was a conversation.

The lawyer knows his stuff when he comes to Jesus. He’s studied his Torah, he’s got his information. He just wants an answer to this one question. “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” He just wants an answer, but what he gets is a conversation.

When we are seeking an answer to what God’s will is for our life, or whether abortion is right or wrong, or how the church should deal with homosexuality, we often go to the Bible for answers. But what we get is a conversation.

That’s the Bible at its intended best, a conversation with God. The Bible functions much like the conversation the lawyer has with Jesus. He comes with one question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus asks him two questions in response, “Let’s start with what you know about it?” And, “how do you interpret that?” The conversation goes on, including the Good Samaritan story, with questions going back and forth and the conversation deepening, until Jesus asks, “Which person was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer gives the answer that he really needed all along–but just didn’t know it–“The one who showed mercy.” He came wanting to know how to inherit eternal life; he left with a realization that the way if God is showing mercy to the least likely. Not the answer he came looking to get, but through the conversation with Jesus, it was the answer he needed.

We gather as a community around the word of God (anything that proclaims Jesus–including Jesus himself) and the sacraments (promises of God’s grace connected to tangible elements–in our case baptism and Holy Communion). We do this in order to have an ongoing conversation with Jesus. Sometimes we come here with specific questions. “Why do so many bad things keep happening to me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “What do you want me to do with my life?” “Should I break up with my girlfriend?” “How do I deal with my nephew who just told me he’s gay?” And sometimes we just want quick answers to these questions. But word and sacraments don’t often work that way. Instead, God uses them to open up a conversation–which happens through story, and together with the gathered community. The Bible becomes for us not a textbook where we look up answers for life’s tests, but a means for God to engage us in a dialogue that shapes our lives.

I’m wondering what question for God you have as you came here today? And I want to offer one small way to enter into a conversation with God about it. Bear in mind that we are best when we do this in community, listening to one another and sharing with one another, but for now let’s enter the conversation on our own. I’m going to read the scripture passage again, and I want you to listen for something in there that rubs you the wrong way or that is confusing or pricks at you a little. Ready?  . . .

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

You’ll want to share your sticking point with someone else, and I encourage you to do that at some point very soon. But for now, think about why this particular phrase or word or thought is catching you up. What is troubling you about it? What is going on in your life that makes this particular point difficult?

Now, from what you know about Jesus, what would he say to you to help you? Anyone want to share? . . .

The conversation has only just begun. God’s story has just become part of your story. Your life’s story is informed now by God’s story. Don’t let that conversation end. Share it with your friends, listen to their conversations too. Let’s gather together next week in this community that supports our conversations with God. God will be engaging us together–in the Word and in the sacraments. Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Sermon

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Reasonable Discipleship

Luke 9:51-62

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. 

This is now Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. It’s getting urgent, and he is not going to be deterred.

The Samaritans, predictably, don’t receive him well. He is Jewish, and Samaritans and Jews don’t get along at all. Not only is Jesus Jewish, he’s making it clear that he is going to Jerusalem–the heart and the symbol of Judaism.

But other people, who apparently are with Jesus–or want to be–aren’t getting the urgency of Jesus’ intentions. For him, everything depends on getting to Jerusalem. His very purpose for being born comes down to this journey and the events that will unfold in this city. He is going to Jerusalem to face the powers of this world, to expose them as false in the face of the reign of God, and to accept the consequences of doing such a thing. When you expose false powers for what they are–contrary to God–those who place their trust in those powers push back, and bad things can happen. Jesus is well aware of this; he understands that this journey to Jerusalem will likely lead to his death.

But he is undeterred. He will not be side-tracked. Nothing is more important than this. There are various responses to his urgency:

Samaritans not welcoming him? So what? Nothing new or unexpected there. From their perspective, this is a reasonable response to a Jewish man in their territory heading to Jerusalem.

James and John wanting to call down fire on the Samaritans for their rudeness? I understand their attempted defense of their Lord. That certainly is reasonable. But after all this time, they think that a violent, vengeful response is what Jesus is looking for? Not going to happen.

In another village as they travel along the way, someone offers to follow Jesus anywhere (not knowing, of course, that Jesus is heading to his death), Jesus is hardly encouraging. If you follow me, he says, you’ll have no worldly security; nowhere, even, to lay your head. Not a very enthusiastic response to someone who wants to follow!

A second person doesn’t offer, but is actually asked by Jesus to follow. And this person makes the very reasonable request to bury their father first. Jesus brushes this one off–let the dead bury their own dead.

Does this response by Jesus strike anyone else as completely unreasonable? Isn’t Jesus all about compassion and love for one another? He won’t even allow a poor grieving son or daughter to bury their father before following him? Apparently, his journey to Jerusalem, with all that is at stake there, is that urgent.

Then a third person offers to follow Jesus, just as soon as she says goodbye to her family. Did you hear that? She wants to follow, and is willing to leave for family, her town, and her life for Jesus’ sake. A quick good-bye seems entirely reasonable. Jesus tells her she isn’t fit for the kingdom because she’s looking backwards.

Oh, c’mon, Jesus! It’ll take a minute for this potential follower to write a quick note and leave it on the kitchen table. “Gone with Jesus. Back later.”

When we get past the rudeness and the strangeness of his responses, we can begin to see how important this journey to Jerusalem is for Jesus. More important than etiquette, manners, or people’s feelings. Nothing, absolutely nothing will get in his way. He will go to Jerusalem and he will accomplish that which he came to do. He will face the rulers and the powers of this world. He will bring the reign of God–compassion, forgiveness, and peace, right under their noses. In doing so he will expose the powers of the world as contrary to God’s mission. And he will be killed for it.

Everything hinges on this. The reign of God–of peace, of forgiveness, of standing with the poor and powerless–will come face-to-face with the best this world has to offer. Winner take all. The fate of all creation hangs in the balance. Either the power we know and crave for ourselves will win, or forgiveness and grace will win. All or nothing. No compromise or bargaining. Either God is god or something else is. Either God’s way of grace, mercy, and forgiveness rules, or something else does.

So these prospective followers of Jesus, with their reasonable conditions, are in the way. James and John, these disciples of Jesus, who have given up everything to follow him, and who are reasonable wanting to defend Jesus, are in the way. And we, who call ourselves reasonable followers of Christ, are also in the way.

Do you know why we find their requests reasonable? Because we do the same thing. We find reasonable ways to be disciples. Which can mean we bargain, we compromise, we try to follow on our terms. We place our convenience and comfort and security ahead of our discipleship. We follow Jesus when it suits us, and find reasonable ways to avoid it when it doesn’t. So we say reasonable things, like:

–It would be silly to give more money away. I need to provide for my children after I’m gone. God doesn’t want us to be foolish, right? That’s reasonable.

–I already volunteer. My life is so busy I just don’t have time to do any more. God wants our lives to be in balance, right? That’s reasonable.

–I’m raising children and that takes all my time and energy. God doesn’t want us to neglect our kids, right? That’s reasonable.

–I try really hard. I’m doing my best to follow Jesus as closely as I can. What else does God expect? That’s reasonable.

Don’t all those statements sound reasonable? Of course they do, because they are! And yet, either God’s way of absolute grace and forgiveness reigns, or our very reasonable compromises do.

And yet, Jesus is undeterred. Jesus will go to Jerusalem. Jesus will not be stopped from facing the power behind our reasonable discipleship. Jesus will go. And he will die. And he will be raised. And the reign of God happens. Forgiveness wins. Grace triumphs. Mercy is not put aside. Jesus is that determined. In spite of us. And, in fact, he is that determined for us.

You see? If Jesus goes to Jerusalem, then you are forgiven. If God’s way wins, you are assured of unconditional love. If God’s kingdom overcomes the powers of this world, you are shown mercy.

Jesus will not be swayed; he loves you. Forgiveness will not be deterred; Jesus gives it to you. Mercy will not be stopped; Jesus brings it to you. God’s mission is that urgent. You are that urgent. Jesus is not hindered by our very reasonable discipleship. God’s way wins. Jesus is going to Jerusalem. Amen.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Sermon

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: